Weather got you down?
by Zoey Duncan
As if you didn’t have enough to worry about with exams, tuition payment, and holiday shopping, the weather may also be playing a role in your trip to the doldrums.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) hits up to 20 per cent of Canadians every year. It’s a type of seasonal depression that tends to happen from October to late spring — sort of like the school year. For two to three per cent of the population, SAD can be debilitating, inhibiting people from getting through their daily activities.
Research about what causes SAD is ongoing, but right now, evidence suggests that the decreased amount of sunlight during winter months leads to the disturbance of sleep patterns, mood, and appetite.
According to eyrespace.com/weather, at this time of year in Calgary, we get a little more than eight hours of sunlight in a day. The sun rises around 8 a.m. and has set by 4:30 p.m. In September, we get about 13 hours of light as opposed to July when we get over 16 hours daily of the warm, sweat-inducing rays.
In fact, according to Environment Canada, Calgary gets an average of over 2,400 bright, sunny, cloudless hours every year. This is compared to 2,288 hours during a year in Edmonton, 2,037 hours in Toronto, and 1,928 hours in Vancouver.
Symptoms of SAD do overlap with other types of depression, but if you notice that symptoms occur for consecutive winters and without any other explanation, SAD just might be the cause.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), symptoms may include:
•Appetite changes: specifically cravings for carbs and sweets
•Decrease in energy, fatigue and oversleeping
•Irritability and anxiety
•Avoidance of social situations and sensitivity to social
•Feelings of despair
It’s easy to fall into a schedule where you wake up and go to school while it’s dark out, then leave school once the sun goes down. If you have mild symptoms, increase the time you spend in the sun by taking a walk outside at lunchtime, and situating your workspace to take advantage of sunlight through windows. The CMHA recommends exercise to avoid developing seasonal affective disorder. Other treatments include light therapy lamps that simulate the rays of the sun.
If you think you’re suffering from a more severe case of seasonal affective disorder, the CMHA recommends seeing your doctor to discuss alternative treatments, including antidepressants and counseling.